Tuesday May 21st, The Hague, Netherlands – Today members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Native Village of Point Hope, Alaska attended the Royal Dutch Shell AGM to confront the Chairman and Board over Shell’s decision to pursue highly risky ‘extreme energy’ projects without adequate consultation and accommodation of Indigenous communities. Projects such as Arctic off-shore drilling and tar sands will have little long term benefit for the company, and expose it to reputational damage, political and financial risk, including litigation.
“The ACFN leadership has made a commitment to protect our lands, rights and people currently being threatened by tar sands development. Our leadership has repeatedly tried exploring amenable agreements and options with Shell regarding their current tar sands proposals for the Jackpine expansion and the Pierre River mine projects. We want to work directly with the company to adequately identify direct impacts and solutions. However, Shell has repeatedly denied our requests and we have been disappointed by their inability to make concessions to work with us,” stated Eriel Deranger, member and Communications Coordinator of the ACFN. “Today I brought forward our concerns to Shell’s Board about current and proposed tar sands projects and the lack of adequate consultation.[i] I sincerely hope the Board keeps its word to speak with their Canadian president to address our concerns and potentially adjust the environmental impact assessment process. If Shell continues to move forward in project development without working directly with our community it will continue to lead toward more delays in project approvals, litigation and severe financial risk for Shell,[ii]” continued Deranger.
Shell Oil Canada has put forward two new proposals in the Athabasca tar sands. The Jackpine mine expansion application recently completed the public review process and is awaiting approval May 31, 2013. The Pierre River mine will be entering its public review process later this year and the ACFN will continue to intervene to ensure the protection of their lands, rights and vital waterways.
“Shell has been unaccountable and unresponsive for recent spills in our community, which our community members have been monitoring and testing. We live surrounded by 63 petro-chemical operators in 50 km radius. Our health, culture and rights are severely impacted already and we do not support tar sands refining or pipelines in our community. We have our future generations to protect,” said Vanessa Grey, community member of Aamwjiwnaang First Nation (AFN).
AFN is the proposed start for the highly contested tar sands Line 9 pipeline reversal and home to a Shell tar sands refinery. The pipelines such as Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Line 9 are facing massive public opposition, and look unlikely to be built soon. The price of tar sands crude has dropped as a result.
Mae Hank, representative of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), attended the AGM to to bring forward concerns regarding Shell’s Arctic offshore activities.[iii] Litigation, along with several other incidents has helped slow the rush to drill in the Arctic but the Tribal communities remained concerned Shell has not heeded these warnings.[iv]
“Shell has stated that despite their current ‘pause’ in their Arctic offshore Alaska activities, the company is committed to drill there again in the future,” she said. “As an Inupiat Mother and Grandmother, I strongly oppose this plan, as do a majority of Inupiat. There is still no viable spill plan in place not only for cleaning up spills but how the company will compensate our community for the loss of food and food security.[v] I asked the Chairman and the Board to explain how they would compensate our community’s food security and needs when the next major oil spill disaster happens. The Chairman and the board simply danced around the question and did nothing to quell my concerns.”
Despite being plagued with substantial problems throughout and after the drilling season, Shell plans to continue its efforts for exploratory drilling in 2014 in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The company has spent $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters, however they have been proven incapable of operating in the area. Shell’s experiences should be a cautionary tale as decisions are made about whether to authorize these activities in the future.
Photo: Polaris Institute